Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 613–620 | Cite as

The birth experience and subsequent maternal caregiving attitudes and behavior: a birth cohort study

  • A. F. BellEmail author
  • L. H. Rubin
  • J. M. Davis
  • J. Golding
  • O. A. Adejumo
  • C. S. Carter
Original Article


Optimal maternal caregiving is critical for children’s healthy development, yet quality of maternal caregiving may be influenced by a negative birth experience. We examined whether the birth experience was associated with maternal caregiving attitudes and behavior throughout the first year. We conducted secondary analysis of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children birth cohort on perinatal data. The birth experience was assessed using self-report data on level of support in labor. Maternal caregiving variables were self-report maternal attitudes at one and eight postnatal months, and observed maternal behavior at 12 postnatal months. Data were analyzed using multivariable logistic regression models adjusting for critical covariates at one (N = 4389), eight (N = 4580), and 12 (N = 842) postnatal months. Feeling supported in labor was associated with a report of “immediately falling in love” with one’s baby after birth, surveyed at 1 month (adjusted OR 1.41 [95% CI 1.20–1.65]), and with more positive parenting scores at 8 months (adjusted OR 1.56 [95% CI 1.36–1.79]), but not with more positive observed maternal behavior at 12 months. Additional risk factors were identified. Our findings suggest that we may be able to modify the risk of poor postnatal maternal caregiving by supporting women in labor and facilitating a positive birth experience.


Birth experience Maternal attitude Maternal behavior Parenting ALSPAC Systematic review 



We are thankful to all the families who participated in ALSPAC, the midwives for their help in recruiting them, and the entire ALSPAC team, including interviewers, computer and laboratory technicians, clerical workers, research scientists, volunteers, managers, receptionists, and nurses. We extend special thanks to Karen Birmingham and Maxine McRae.

Authors’ contribution

AFB, JMD, JJC, and CSC contributed to study conception and design. AFB supervised the project with senior mentoring from CSC. AFB, LHR, and OA drafted the manuscript. LHR and OA managed the dataset and performed statistical analyses. All authors contributed to interpretation of results and manuscript editing.


This study was funded by the Fetzer Institute, Grant no. 3091.00, and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Grant no. KL2TR000048. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. The UK Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust (Grant ref. 102215/2/13/2) and the University of Bristol currently provide core support for ALSPAC.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interests

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

The ALSPAC Law and Ethics Committee and local Research Ethics Committees granted ethical approval for the study. For further details see

Supplementary material

737_2018_921_MOESM1_ESM.docx (28 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 28 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. F. Bell
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • L. H. Rubin
    • 3
  • J. M. Davis
    • 4
  • J. Golding
    • 5
  • O. A. Adejumo
    • 6
  • C. S. Carter
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Women Children and Family Health ScienceUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.College of NursingUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Departments of Neurology and EpidemiologyJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  5. 5.Centre for Academic Child Health, Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical SchoolUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  6. 6.Department of Epidemiology and BiostatisticsUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  7. 7.Kinsey Institute and Department of Biology, Morrison Hall 13Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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